Resupply at Camugra Island

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World War 2 in the Pacific. Light easterly winds. Visibility 23,000 yards. Hot as Hades.

The British cruiser force steamed north through the islands, hunting for Japanese ships. A coastwatch observer had alerted them to a small Japanese force in the vicinity. The Japanese were aware that the islands were used as a base to refuel and rearm Allied submarines, but the Japanese force did not know exactly where.


Resupply at Camugra Island

Two submarines were currently undergoing re-supply from a converted freighter, in the shelter of Camugra Island. The Japanese force cruised south, hunting for any supply ships. They were spotted by one of the submarines and radio contact was made with the British force, warning them of the approaching Japanese ships. At first the Japanese failed to spot their target, hidden by the shadow of the island. Instead, their rear two ships spotted the lead two ships of the British as they cleared Camugra Island. Both cruiser forces accelerated to battle speed and readied their main guns.

The leading Japanese heavy cruiser, Aoba, was obscured from the British by Camugra Island. Similarly, the British light cruiser HMS Achilles was not yet in the sight of the Furutaka and the Agano.

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The opening shots from both sides missed, but provided useful ranging data. As the ships continued on their nearly parallel, but opposite, courses the British proved quicker at finding their target. With one salvo, HMS Exeter scored two hits on the Furutaka, knocking out 'B' turret and its port secondary turret. The next salvo was even more accurate, knocking out 'Y' turret, destroying the port torpedo tubes, 2 shells damaging the hull and one shell jamming the rudder.

None of the other ships had yet recorded a hit but the Furutaka was nearly impotent, having only 1 main turret left. The damage control party on the Furutaka had some success though, and quickly repaired the rudder. This was lucky. If the rudder had remained jammed, the Furutaka would have soon run aground on Camugra Island.

Torpedo Away

The Japanese finally had some success, with the Agano hitting the York, causing a hull hit. But the Japanese commander's hope that this would signal a turnaround in the battle was short lived. The Exeter continued to pound the damaged Furutaka, knocking out 'A' turret, their fire control and causing two bulkhead hits. Water was now pouring into the hull of the Furutaka. Men frantically worked to quell the flow of water.

The HMS York added to the Japanese woes as it knocked out 'A' turret on the Agano. The lead Japanese ship, Aoba, was steaming rapidly around the island. The Allied subs and freighter were frantically trying to get underway. So far they had not been a target as the Japanese cruisers had been too busy firing back at the British cruisers.

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The two submarines finally were closed up and able to slip underwater; to their great relief. Despite the efforts of their crew, the flooding on the Furutaka continued. It slowed as it settled lower in the water, only able to make 5 knots. The freighter finally had its boilers up to pressure and began moving. This was unfortunate as it actually moved the freighter into the path of several shells, dropping its speed as two shells hit the hull, including one that buckled a bulkhead – causing the water to start rushing in below decks. It was lucky not to have a shell ignite the store of fuel.

The Exeter continued with their accurate fire by again hit the Furutaka; knocking out its last torpedo tubes. With all the manoeuvring going on, none of the other ships hit.

Currently being outnumbered three to one, the light cruiser Agano turned north and fired a torpedo in the hope of hitting, or at least distracting, the British ships.

The repair parties on the Furutaka successfully stopped the water flooding in the starboard side. But it was to no avail, as enough water had come in through the port side to finally sink the cruiser. The repair team on the freighter started their repair, but were having trouble staunching the inrush of water.

The Exeter and Achilles had by now spotted the heavy cruiser Aoba appearing from behind Camugra Island. They performed a sharp turn to head towards it in an attempt to protect the freighter. With a new target, both these British ships had to fire ranging shots and so did no damage. The Aoba chose to fire on the nearest British ship, which was now the Achilles. It also missed. The British commander tasked the York with continuing to hunt the fleeing Agano, but they recorded no hits .

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The temporary patch was successful in stopping the leak on the freighter, but it could only limp along at about 6 knots. The Agano and the York were now down to a reasonably close range and both ships traded hits. The York lost one starboard secondary turret and took two shells in the hull – one of which damaged a bulkhead. In return the Agano lost 'B' turret, took several hull hits, lost its starboard secondary turret and badly damaged the fire control systems. They also had a shell cause some damage in the engine room, dropping the ship to half speed.

The Exeter continued its turn towards the south, but unfortunately steamed right into the path of the torpedo previously fired by the Agano. They spotted the torpedo at the last minute and performed some violent evasive manoeuvres. They were successful in avoiding the first three, but just got hit by the fourth. The torpedo caused two hull hits and the subsequent buckling of the deck put 'A' turret out of action.

The Aoba achieved 3 hits on the Achilles - causing a hull hit, knocking out 'X' turret and also destroying its starboard torpedo tubes. But the return fire from both British ships made a mess of the Japanese heavy cruiser. 'B' turret and 'Y' turret were put out of action, leaving only one main turret. The engine room was damaged, dropping its speed. But worst of all, the port torpedo tubes were smashed and the oxygen which fuelled the 'long lance' torpedos started a fire.

The Battle Reaches its Peak

Neither damage control party was having much success. The water continued to leak in on the York and the oxygen fuelled fire raged on the Aoba; doing further damage to both ships. The ships continued to close, but no salvoes were successful.

With most of the oxygen consumed, the fire was finally able to be extinguished on the slowing Aoba by concentrating the repair parties on it. Unfortunately this meant that the engine room repairs could not be completed. The British were also successful in plugging the leak on the York.

With the Aoba going so slowly, the Exeter and Achilles steamed rapidly to 'cross the T'. The Exeter only landed one 8-inch shell, although this devastated the bridge of the Aoba. But the fire from the Achilles landed a whole salvo, knocking out the last main turret. It also causing more hits on the hull and another engine room hit which made the Aoba dead in the water – a sitting duck with only secondary armament left.

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The damage to the Aoba's engine rooms was so severe that they were not able to repair it quickly. As the Exeter was about to 'cross the T' it launched a torpedo at the sitting duck. With only a short distance to travel, the British torpedo closed rapidly on the stricken Aoba. It hit an already weakened part of the hull, causing severe damage. It was more than enough to sink the stationary Japanese cruiser.

To the north, the York missed the fleeing Japanese light cruiser. The latter obtained a minor consolation prize by knocking out a port secondary turret on the York. This was enough to make the British commander call off the chase and the battle now came to a close. He had sunk two Japanese heavy cruisers and rescued the freighter. However, all his cruisers and the freighter were damaged. Only the York still had all main turrets in operation.

 

The final moments of the Aoba as the torpedo from the Exeter hits home.

Wrap-Up

The British gunnery was excellent throughout the battle. Being on target early on and knocking out several main turrets made it then very difficult for the Japanese to play catch-up. The lucky long range hit with the Japanese 'long lance' torpedo could have brought the Japanese back in the game if it had caused more damage and sunk the Exeter. The heavy cruiser Aoba would then have only had the light cruiser Achilles firing at it whilst the Aoba still had all three main turrets in action. This would have given a chance for the heavy cruiser Aoba to sink the light cruiser Achilles before the York could come to its aid (although the Achilles did knock out one of its turrets in that exchange of fire). However, that may have just opened up an opportunity for one of the Allied submarines to torpedo the Aoba. As it was, with them firing so accurately in that battle, it was a clear victory to the British.

This battle was fought using General Quarters 3. This was the first battle that we used simultaneous movement with written orders, as per the rules. It took a little longer than just moving them without writing orders. However, it was not much extra time and added an element of excitement each turn from trying to second guess your opponent.

Note that the Japanese ships were substitutes for the ones required for the game, so ignore the labels on them. For example, the Kako was used to represent the Aoba.